A Dose of Justice (League)

When word first began circulating of the fabled “Snydercut” of the 2017 Justice League film, I was intrigued. I participated in the #releasethesnydercut hype. However, it was difficult to believe, even if such a thing existed, it would ever see life on screen. For reference, Snyder stepped down from directorial duties following a family tragedy, coupled with what seems to have been a massive amount of studio interference with the vision he had in mind for not only the film, but the then-universe of the DCEU as a whole. The door seemed to be closed.

The 2017 version of the film that fans got to see in theaters was a botched, patchwork disaster of film-making that couldn’t settle on a tone or consistent vision and made a mockery of the characters. I’d prefer not to mention the additional director/writer who was brought on board to “fix” the movie after Snyder departed, but many fans have dubbed the theatrical cut the “Josstice League” version, so… take from that what you will. Since then, the DCEU has stepped away from the darker, desaturated world Snyder first presented in 2013’s criminally underrated Man of Steel, aiming to get the struggling cinematic universe off the ground via solo, self-contained outings – an effort which has, thanks to films like 2017’s Wonder Woman (NOT WW84) 2018’s Aquaman, and 2019’s Shazam! and Joker, has seen some degree of success, though whether any real connected “universe” remains has been left somewhat ambiguous.

In 2020, when it was announced that, after literal years, Zack Snyder would get to present his “Snydercut” of Justice League on HBOMax, it was almost unbelievable. Immediately, like Superman’s death knell, speculation rippled across the internet. Naysayers assumed it would just be a longer, more dour version of the monster brought to theaters in 2017, while steadfast fans prepared to see the vision they were deprived of years ago. And, as a fan of Snyder, I was personally hyped – but also apprehensive.

Ezra Miller as The Flash, Henry Cavill as Superman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman, and Jason Momoa as Aquaman.

I’ve been a long-time admirer of Snyder’s work – it is rare, these days, to see an artist or creator who is so earnestly passionate about his work, and whose style is utterly distinct that it is immediately noticeable when a work is theirs. Plus, Snyder just seems like an overall great guy. The man is capable of bringing epics to the screen – I forever stand by the statement that 2009’s Watchmen is one of the greatest comic book adaptations of all time. His works aren’t perfect, of course. Even I can admit that the theatrical version of 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, while it was a visual spectacle, is not a great movie. The Ultimate Edition does rectify that somewhat, but after the film’s poor critical performance, it is not hard to understand why WB felt the need to interfere with the production Justice League… but, clearly the way they went about it was absolutely ridiculous and misguided, and the “Josstice League” cut is a testament to that monumentally erroneous approach, not to mention the rumors of misconduct during production.

My dad and I sat down to watch the Snydercut on release day, March 18th… and from the get go, we were stunned by how different it was. How more in tune it felt with the previous movies, how, even though some scenes were similar to the theatrical version, the way they were presented gave them new, more powerful significance. Batman is given the redemption he deserves. Cyborg had an arc that gave him actual character development, one of the best parts of the movie, and his father is given more to do that bears actual weight in the story. Steppenwolf was a fleshed out, solid villain with coherent motivations – and who I actually FELT BAD FOR at one point, as he was getting the verbal smackdown from DeSaad, who was CUT FROM THE THEATRICAL VERSION along with the great and terrible Darkseid. Action scenes were grittier, more impressive, and on a grander scale – especially the Amazons battling Steppenwolf on Themyscira. Flash was no longer reduced to a rambling, silly joke-spewer, and features in what is possible one of the best scenes ever realized in a superhero movie – if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it, but it is incredible. THE BLACK SUIT. That stupid Russian family sublot is gone. Aquaman has more to do, and his character is in line with his solo film. All of the restorations – from the cut characters, the slaughtered action sequences, the altered dialogue – show that the original vision was a four-hour epic of storytelling. It is almost CRIMINAL to see what was left on the cutting room floor, which would have never seen the light of day had Zack not been able to complete the cut – I mean, the four hour cut would have never made it to theaters anyway, but many of the changes are still mind-boggling. This version is dark, for sure – and it earns that ‘R’ rating with the violence – but it’s unique, it has some decent comedic moments, it does (no pun intended) justice to every character, and boasts a cohesive plot and pacing that makes four hours feel nothing like an uphill slog. The dialogue is a little clunky at times, but the positives FAR outweigh the negatives. And, in what is possibly the best thing to come from the original film being brought to the world… Henry Cavill’s CGI face is nowhere to be seen. I still have nightmares about that face.

The Snydercut makes the theatrical version look like a joke. And a bad one, at that. Like… to be frank… I hope WB is embarrassed to see the positive reception Snyder is getting as opposed to the Frankenstein they slapped onscreen in 2017. It’s been trending for days. Celebrities are tweeting about it. I mean, I would be embarrassed to have that much egg on my face.

The theatrical version tried to keep pace with Marvel – which, even in 2017, pre-End Game, was impossible. The DCEU was never going to be the MCU, and they should have never tried. And now, having seen the Snydercut – which, in contrast to the theatrical cut, is getting pretty damn good reviews, despite fairly consistent criticism of the runtime – it makes me so, so sad that we will, most likely, never see what could have been had Snyder remained onboard for the sequels. #Restorethesnyderverse is a movement I can get behind, but the logistics of it are absurdly complicated. Such a feat seems impossible now – not only because WB is doubling down on their decision to move on from that chapter, but Affleck has stepped away from the Batman role, Ray Fisher is embroiled in controversy with the studio and is unlikely to return as Cyborg, and I don’t think anyone would blame Snyder for not wanting to go back down that route after the way he was treated. I wish better things for him, honestly. And, in a side note… seeing “For Autumn” at the end of the film made me tear up. The film is a monument to Zack’s love for his family, not only his passion for filmmaking.

The Snyderverse may never be restored in full the way it was originally intended, but the release of the Snydercut is a landmark in the world of film, and a dose of justice for not only a much-beleaguered director, but for all who were involved in the original project and had their work tossed aside. The actors who had their scenes altered, or cut entirely. Tom Holkenborg, whose score finally got to be used after he was replaced last minute by Danny Elfman back in 2017 (not Elfman’s fault, mind you). And the fans, who rang the first bell to #releasethesnydercut, and finally get to watch the movie they yearned for years ago.

Maybe the world wasn’t ready for Zack Snyder’s Justice League in 2017. Maybe we didn’t deserve it. But 2021 is a different time, a turned page, and finally, we got to join Snyder in the sun. I hope he is able to bask in his success, to relish in vindication, and know that so many fans will continue to stand by him no matter what he does next.

If you haven’t streamed Zack Snyder’s Justice League yet… do it. You won’t regret it.

The Old Days

Before there were podcasts, when television was still in its infancy, the internet was unheard of, and streaming platforms were a distant dream of the future, folks listened to the radio.

When I was a child, my father introduced me to old radio shows. Many of these were detective classics, like Johnny Dollar, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, and Richard Diamond, where the titular sleuths would embark on crusades to solve murders, thefts, and various other crimes, some with comedic twists, others far more grounded in the gritty tone of noir. These were proper radio shows, with full casts and a whole production team akin to a television show.

As an adult, though still on the recommendation of my dad and of the Radio Classics channel on SiriusXM, I went on to also discover radio shows like Suspense, CBS Mystery Theater, The Chase, Dimension X, Box 13, and many others. During the early phases of quarantine, back in March-May 2020, my job was closed to the public but salaried employees still had to work to fulfill online orders, and I binged some series in their entirety while doing so.

I’ll admit, some of these series are outdated, or contain content that is harmful, racist, or otherwise offensive by today’s standards (and should have been offensive back then, too, but we all know how 1930’s-50’s America was), and I don’t condone any of that. Hopefully, folks listen to those moments now and cringe at how out of touch they are, like I do. But, aside from those instances, I find so many of these shows engrossing, even now, so many years later.

Suspense, billed as “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills,” is a prime example of a show that features excellent storytelling capable of transporting listeners into another time and place entirely, even decades after their original air date. Many episodes will also be familiar to literature fans, such as the Agnes Moorehead-starring adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and adaptations of The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, some of the most enduring short stories of all time. Stories from Ray Bradbury, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Carl Stephenson, also make appearances, sometimes multiple times.

Of course, nowadays we have podcasts, television shows, webseries, and so many other forms of media, so radio has fallen a bit by the wayside, at least the way it was in its original incarnation – but there is still something inherently special about the radio shows of yore. I listen to the Radio Classics channel when I’m driving, and it transports me to a new world, where I can envision these stories in my own way, aided by the voices and music and vivid storytelling. It lets the listeners imagine, much like books do, but compacts stories into half hour to hour long episodes. Suspense is a notable favorite, as it covers so many kinds of stories, from horror to drama to science fiction, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the detective shows, especially Richard Diamond, as his tales often featured comedic spins and songs from leading man Dick Powell, rather than dour, rain-drenched streets and hopeless musings from a beleaguered gumshoe. Dimension X, a show that focused heavily on scifi, features some classic stories and examples of early-days science fiction, a genre that has become so over-saturated in recent years that the older stories have been drowned out, but remain well worth a listen.

Radio may be a bit of a forgotten form of media – but the Golden Age of Radio should never be let to fall by the wayside. If you have satellite radio, I highly recommend the Radio Classics station – it also has comedies like Our Miss Brooks, and westerns, like Gunsmoke, if that’s your thing. Many of these shows can also be found on Youtube or in CD form. Radio may be a bit of a forgotten form of media – but the Golden Days of Radio should never be let to fall by the wayside.

Pokemon Master

When I was a ten year old – maybe even a five year old – I wanted to be a Pokémon master. I’m twenty-eight now, and, to be honest, I still want to be one.

Pokémon has been around for 25 years, which is nothing short of incredible, and it’s still going strong. I no longer watch the anime (I fell off sometime around Hoenn and never got back into it), but the games are still consistently fun, so I still play (and replay) them to this day. I started with Pokémon Blue, followed swiftly by Yellow (and I had the special Pikachu Gameboy Color) and have played all generations ever since, with the exception of Black and White 2. Some adults may think it’s lame to still like a franchise that aimed more toward children, but I’m still a Pokémon fan, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon – like many, I was super thrilled with the announcement of the Diamond and Pearl remakes for the Switch coming later this year. Heck, I can probably still recite the Poke Rap!

Ever since the first generation, I always pick the water starters – a lvl. 100 Empoleon with Pokerus is one of my prized companions. Johto is my favorite region, though Sinnoh and Galar both make a strong case for second, and Kaanto is up there as well. My favorite legendary is Ho-oh, favorite game is HeartGold, and favorite Gym Leader is Sabrina, then Faulkner. Like all good Pokémon fans, especially those of us who remember the OG 151 Pocket monsters, I also have a dream team, and to celebrate Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, I thought I’d share my trainer card!

Here’s to 25 years of Pokémon – and, hopefully, 25 more to come!

Five Favorite Books

A simple little post, talking about my five favorite books of all time. Admittedly, some titles on this list are flexible, but these are definitely in the upper echelon at a constant rate.

5.) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
I am admittedly due for a reread of this book, as I’ve only read it once, but I remember reading it my senior year of high school and absolutely loving it. For those of you unfamiliar, Brave New World is a science-fiction novel set in the distant future which plays with several different ideas involving human nature, love and desire, and conformity versus nonconformity. It’s definitely the book that made me really fall in love with the sci-fi genre, with its details of a dangerous futuristic world known as the “World State,” where Henry Ford is considered a god, and individual freedom and thought are spurned and repressed in favor of the collective. Not the most cheerful of topics, and the content itself is quite dark, but it is an important novel nonetheless and well worth a read if you’ve never read it.


4.) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
“I want to put my hand out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for you. I want to be there when you’re sick and when you’re lonesome.”
I was that girl in high school. You know…the one who liked all of the books in English Class that everyone else hated – and Ethan Frome was one of the big ones. The book is about a man named Ethan Frome whose wife, Zeena, is ill – and so, her relative Mattie comes to help care for her. But it’s not a traditional love triangle – it’s extraordinarily sad, but very compelling. I don’t know what it is about novels like this – short, depressing, and ‘simple,’ with powerful, haunting themes that stay with you. It’s a very real novel – it requires some reading in-between the lines, but I think it sends a very unique message about feeling trapped, and the potential costs of freedom. That said, it’s really not a book for everyone…though I still recommend it.


3.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
For me, Jane Eyre was the first female literary character that I truly considered to be a badass with an independent will and a very brave, admirable outlook on life. By today’s standards, she might not be considered to be as badass as Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger, but the time period needs to be considered – for the era in which it was written, Jane Eyre was pretty daring, and she certainly was a breakout character. Following the life of mousy, average, but very intelligent Jane, the novel, set in 1800’s England, is about freedom and independence and Jane’s journey toward discovering who she is and what she wants out of life, and she doesn’t let no one stand in her way. If you like strong female characters and classic literature, this novel should be on your ‘to-read’ list. And the 2006 miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is incredible!


2.) The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”
A staple for all fantasy and sci-fi readers, and, in my opinion, one of the best series of all time. I read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a child, and then again as an adult, and love it just as much now as I did when I was 11. Tolkien, in my opinion, is the penultimate master of this genre. He created languages, worlds, and characters that are unforgettable. From Bilbo’s journey with Thorin and Company to reclaim their lost gold from Smaug the dragon, to Frodo and Sam making the hike up Mount Doom to end the tyranny of Sauron and the One Ring, Tolkien weaves amazing stories and characters together for some truly brilliant adventures. As an aspiring author, he’s a big inspiration to me, and these novels never fail to entertain, even if you’ve read them more than once.


1.) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
I have never been drawn to the idea of growing up – so Peter Pan has been a personal anthem to me, more than any other novel. Following Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, and his interaction with the Darling children, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook, the novel takes the reader to the magical world of Neverland, and explores the theme of what it means to ‘grow up,’ and touches on ideas concerning what happens when the magic of childhood begins to fade. I think, at a point in time, a lot of girls feel like Wendy – you want to be whisked away by a charming boy and play games and have fun forever, but then, the realization eventually sinks in; such things are only suited for dreams. As I got older, I realized the tale of Peter Pan is not just a novel about not wanting to grow up – it’s a novel about how one must grow up, something I would have never realized as a child. But I think this book sends that message in a very appealing way, and while it holds very compelling themes, it’s also a fun novel, though a bit ‘darker’ than the Disney film.

Scraps

When I first started my current job, I had a 45 minute commute to work. The drive could get boring, and, as someone with frequently racing thoughts, my mind goes in some bizarre directions.

On my very first day of this new route, I noticed something on the side of the road as I was pulling onto an exit ramp. It was a recently dead raccoon, which had obviously been struck by a car or some other vehicle. Of course I felt pity for the poor beast – no creature deserves to die in such a gruesome fashion.

The following day, I noticed the carcass was still there. And the next day. And the next. Although, each day there was somewhat… less of the poor raccoon. I actually started looking for him as the indicator for the exit I needed to take.

As he was slowly pancake-ified, baked in the sun, and left to rot over the course of several days, becoming almost inrecognizable… I bestowed upon him a name. It seemed unfair that I saw him every day, but had nothing to call him. Thus, he became “Scraps.”

I was in a transitional phase in my life at that point, and was not having the “best time,” one could say. So I felt a weird, messed-up sort of kinship with Scraps. At times, I also felt as though I was constantly being worn away, run over again and again by the ruthless uncaring of outside forces. A little part of me gone each day, leaving a near unrecognizable mess, forgetting who I once was. I think that’s why his horrid, deformed corpse, eroding day after day, struck a chord with me, and stuck in my brain. I felt beaten. I also had really bad under-eye circles then, which one might say were “raccoon-like,” but I digress…

I still think about Scraps every now and then, a year and a half later. Not that I am constantly thinking of roadkill – it really takes up maybe 0.001% of my thoughts on a daily basis, maybe weekly – but I happened upon Scraps at a moment when I felt quite low. I don’t quite relate to a slowly-eroding raccoon carcass anymore, nor do I, as I aim to get my life in order, intend to let circumstances wear me down repeatedly until I am nothing but scraps of my former self.

And I hope that wherever Scraps is now, in whatever nocturnal afterlife he went off to, he’s happily digging through the trash.

Letting Go

I have mentioned it before, but I was a pretty big “weeb” back in the day. And honestly, I still am – but it was a much greater obsession in my teens. I collected manga for a long time, and managed to complete many series, mostly of the shoujo genre – which are manga aimed more toward girls. Fruits Basket is probably the most notable – and my favorite manga series to this day – but I also collected some lesser known series, or shorter ones. It was partially out of love for the books but I also was a bit of a completionist.

However, in a decluttering effort, I have been trying to sell some things and earn some extra cash. Quarantine has been rough, y’all – plus I used to watch a lot of Hoarders and don’t want to end up with a house full of junk because I do have obsessive tendencies and am a bit neurotic. And though that chapter of my life is mostly over – I still like manga, though I don’t really collect it any more – it was unexpectedly difficult to let go of things I once loved so much.

For reference, I had about 300+ volumes of various series. I am now down to under 50, and have a couple of series left to sell.

I am actually still trying to sell Happy Cafe, which is OOP, if anyone is interested.

The upside to all of this is that I did not know, as an awkward manga-loving teen, that my completionist ways would lead to me owning many series that have since got out of print or become quite rare, and are thus being sought by collectors. I haven’t been raking in the cash, per se, but I definitely made more than I spent! And I’m glad I could make some current collectors happy.

Some of those books have inspired me in ways that linger to this day, and though I no longer own them, I will remember the lessons they taught. Lovely Complex taught me that insecurities and differences can bring people together as much as it breaks them apart. Tokyo Mew Mew introduced me to the “magical girl” genre. Fruits Basket taught me that love is beautiful, and ugly, and kindness can always prevail over hatred. Beauty Pop taught me to follow my dreams and nurture my talents. Absolute Boyfriend taught me about the joys, and pitfalls, of first love, and the pain of loss.

Boxing them up and shipping them off was hard, and I almost backed out of a few transactions. But at the same time, it has been freeing to let go – to make it so someone else can find joy in the books I adored as a teen trying to make my way in the world. Although, between you and me… I am replacing my old Tokyopop Fruits Basket volumes with the more recent collector’s editions. Because they are beautiful, and I really do love the series.

Perhaps I’ll go through my Funko pops next…

Impractical

I know my last post was a bit of a downer. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to post about something a bit happier to follow-up.

While I’ve been wallowing in the doldrums of 2020, there have been a few glimmers of light peeking through the black clouds. And four of those glimmers are named Sal, Murr, Q, and Joe.

That’s right. Thanks to quarantine, I have developed an obsession with the TruTV show Impractical Jokers.

I actually have my sister to thank for this. She is part of my very limited social bubble, so, after she gave birth in September, I would go to her house on my days off or after work in the evenings to keep her company, and she had recently begun watching the show. Since it frequently graced the television screen at her house, we developed a mutual obsession for it. Though it’s been on the air for years, I’d never watched a moment of it until quarantine hit. I’ve been binge-watching the whole series on HBO Max at home since I don’t have cable, and I’ll even watch episodes over again because they retain the hilarity factor super well.

And y’all… it is damn funny. The hijinks they get into are equally cringe-worthy and laughter-inducing. Admittedly, it’s not a brand of humor I typically ascribe to (I’m a dark humor, sarcasm, parody/satire type of person) so I never bothered to watch before, but I have been effectively hooked by the antics of four life-long friends who compete to embarrass each other. It definitely helps that their real friendship lends to their incredible on-screen chemistry, but also makes the humor flow with ease instead of feeling forced. The guys genuinely make each other laugh, not just the audience – and that’s a big factor of their success.

Of course, there are times (particularly in earlier seasons) where the humor might be toeing the line a bit – there are some jokes that have made me go “Oh, nooooo…” out loud – but in general, it’s all in good fun. Very rarely does a show make me laugh out loud, and this one does it at least once per episode.

Though each Joker has their own appeal and their own distinct approach to pranks and tasks, Joe is definitely my favorite. “Scoopski potatoes” will never not make me laugh. But Sal’s “Kranjis McBasketball” is a close second.

In short, Impractical Jokers is “impractical” for me. I’m a fantasy, sci-fi, anime lover – my current watch list is The Mandalorian, His Dark Materials and Yashahime, among a couple of others – but sometimes, after a long and grueling day of work dealing with the Christmas-shopping horde, it is exactly what I need to make the stress melt away. Neither my sister nor I ever expected to become obsessed with it, but it really has brought joy to our lives during a difficult time.

If you’re feeling the stress of this holiday season, or feel buried in the depression of quarantine, maybe give something a little more “impractical” a go.

Worst

2020 has been the worst year of my life.

28 years in, and 2020 broke me. It broke me down, chewed me up, spit me out, then stomped all over me. Maybe it’s a quarter life crisis. Maybe the whole quarantine lifestyle got to me. Maybe the state of the world wore me out. Maybe the election (despite the favorable results) took a toll. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with where I am in my life. Maybe it’s the ever increasing persistence of my dysthymia. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Kidding, it’s definitely not Maybelline. It is, however, likely a combination of all those other things. A big ol’ toxic cocktail. It’s very fortunate that I don’t really drink, because that would probably just make it all worse.

I mean, I totally get that I’m privileged. I have a job that was not majorly affected by the pandemic. I have a wonderful family, and my sister recently gave birth to my baby nephew, who is adorable. I have a nice place to live that is near my sister, and close enough to my parents. I don’t face persecution for the color of my skin or my sexual preference because I’m a straight, basic white girl. The Mandalorian is back. Starbucks holiday drinks are out.

But I find things difficult these days. More difficult than ever. My job is stressing me out and I can’t focus on anything for more than five seconds. I can’t even muster up the energy, when I am home, to do adequate chores or the typical life things I am supposed to do. Some days, when I’m not at work, I don’t even get out of bed for more than five minutes at a time. My health isn’t super great and I’ve gained 15 pounds. I had to make a heartbreaking personal decision. And, as the cherry on top of the terrible sundae, I have not written anything in months. MONTHS. Writing, and creating, is my passion, and I have done none of it for almost the entirety of 2020 because my mental state is so poor and I keep beating myself up about it.

So, yeah. 2020 fucking sucked. Did good things happen? Sure. Like I said, I have a brand spankin’ new nephew. Tr*mp will be out of office in January. I spoke to a book club about my book for the first time since it was published. But, in spite of these glimmers of positivity, that dark cloud is brewing over my head, and the storm has continuously blocked out the sun.

So, I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m not really a ‘woe is me’ person because I am fully aware that many, many other people have it much worse than I do. I know 2020 still has a little over a month to go, but I am, as cliché as it is, gearing up for 2021, because I don’t see much of a chance of it turning around in that time. And I know I’m not the only one.

I want to drag myself out of this hole I’ve fallen into. It won’t be easy, and I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing, and I am seeking help. But I’ll make 2021 the year of the climb, and I know I must take steps to make it so. So, for my fellow folks who have been broken by this past year, let’s get ready to put 2020 behind us, and let the sun in.

The Scarlet Letter

… is one of my least favorite books. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate its literary significance and the importance of the messages and themes expressed in Hawthorne’s famous novel. But – and I say this as someone who loves classic literature – it’s a downright slog to read. I’m glad that I read it, but I will never pick it up again.

I read The Scarlet Letter in 11th grade, back in 2009. And my teacher at the time had our class participate in an experiment to make us understand, to at least some degree, the trials and tribulations of the socially-condemned Hester Prynne.

We had to make a ‘letter’ and wear it around school as a brand for a day. So, if we considered our personal “flaw” or perceived “crime” to be greed, for example, we would make a “G” out of craft materials and pin it to our shirt. As a seventeen year old girl, I picked “A,” but not for adultery. It was for ‘anger.’

I was often angry in my teens, and that anger bled into and impacted several areas of my life. It caused me a lot of frustration, stress, and irritation. It was the root of many personal issues I was experiencing at the time, and vice versa. And I spent that whole day with an “A” on my shirt to announce it to the world… and really, all it did was make me angrier because friends/peers would constantly ask me, “what’s the ‘A’ for?” and it was annoying. But, I digress…

However, the lesson did, at the time, make me think about how anger was affecting my life. I have been able to let it go, per se, as I’ve grown older. And now, eleven years later, that lesson has crept back into the forefront of my mind. Anger is not what I would consider the ‘root’ of my issues now, but I might wear a different ‘A’ as a twenty-eight year old in the year 2020 – an ‘A’ for anxiety.

It might not be an obvious thing, nor does anyone make me march around town with some visible indication that I suffer from anxiety, thus allowing others to scorn me. Times have changed since the Puritan era. But I can feel that ‘A,’ burning a hole in my chest, every day. It is not visible, but I know that it is there. And, of late, it has been swallowing me. Part of it is definitely due to the state of the world at the moment, but there are also other roadblocks in my personal life that are making that “A” blaze brighter and brighter, if only on the inside. And there’s a big ol’ neon ‘D’ right beside it. It’s probably obvious what that stands for.

I am trying not to let it consume me. It’s difficult. I can feel the weight much heavier than ever before, and that creeping dread digs its fingers into my skin more often than usual. I mean, I know – I’m a basic white girl who has been afforded many opportunities in my life, so my issues are trivial in the grand scheme of things and when compared to what others are going through. This isn’t a ‘boo hoo, feel bad for me’ type post, it’s just cathartic to get it out there. And I know I’m not alone.

It does help a little to know that, even though we do not outwardly wear our own scarlet letters, everyone has at least one. And before judging others, I try to think what their own burdensome letter might be, and how it might weigh on them. Some guy cuts me off in traffic? He’s probably fighting his own battles. The person who ordered the last cake pop at Starbucks? Maybe they needed that sugar boost to get through the day more than I did. Knowing that we are not alone can make those letters feel a little smaller, even if, for some of us, they will never disappear entirely.

The ‘A’ may be heavy, but I do wear it with some measure of pride. It has not defeated me yet, nor will I let it.

Aunt Allie

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this on my blog yet (I am a little behind) but I’m going to be an aunt! I technically already am – my sister has a stepson – but she is now pregnant with a little boy and is due in October.

It is also well-known in my circle that I do not like children.

This is a blanket statement, of course, and requires clarification. I am child-free, but I love the kids in my family, blood related and otherwise. I just do not relate easily to children and lack maternal instincts. Like… if a kid falls down at my job because they’re running around or doing something they’re not supposed to, I ain’t stopping to help them up. Kids are known to freeze in their tracks when I send “the glare” their way, and I had a reputation of being scary to children in my old neighborhood in MA, because no one would ring my doorbell during trick or treat for two years running. Those kids also shouldn’t have been playing in my yard, thus prompting me to yell at them a few times, but I digress…

Not liking children does not mean I am not stoked for my sister to have a baby, because I am! I love my step-nephew (or stephew, if you will) already – he is a polite and genuinely fun kid to be around, but having a baby around will be new territory.

We held her baby shower this past weekend, and it was awesome to see friends and family coming together to celebrate with masks and hand sanitizer on hand and as much social distancing as possible. I have felt bad for her because, with the state of the world right now, she hasn’t had what can be called a “normal” pregnancy, but I’m super glad she and the baby are both healthy, which is the most important thing.

My sister has been one of my few companions during this pandemic, and, if I ever don’t feel well, I make sure not to go around her. We’ve been going for walks and getting “starbies,” our standard white girl indulgences.

With my typical dislike of children, I never thought I’d be excited to be an aunt. But I really am – I’ve already got stuff for the baby’s third birthday, and when I go to the store, I usually pick up my stephew some Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s growth – part of getting older. I actually stop and look around the childrens/baby department at stores now instead of hustling by to avoid being around stranger’s spawn.

Now, does that mean I am warming to the idea of having my own children? Well…

ABSOLUTELY NOT. But Aunt Allie is ready to be the best aunt ever.